In September, the county is expected to award a design/build contract for a new elevator that will run directly into the station from the southwestern corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street, near the Pentagon City mall.
The elevator will complement an existing elevator on the southeast corner of the intersection.
About 95 percent of the $5 million project will be funded with state and federal funds. The county is hoping that the elevator will be open by Nov. 2014.
Also this year, the county is hoping to award a contract to refurbish and reopen an abandoned pedestrian tunnel that connects the northeast corner of the Hayes/12th intersection to the Metro station’s mezzanine.
The county is hoping to finalize the design of the refurbished tunnel — the design process has been on-going for nearly a decade — and to put the project out for bid by the end of the year.
The tunnel could reopen by the winter of 2014.
Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach suggested that the project has been made more complicated thanks to the tunnel’s proximity to the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We’re still working through a few remaining design issues and we have to conclude some property-related negotiations,” he said. “It is a very complicated small project. That tunnel was built as part of a site plan development. We have to work with the adjacent property owner and the adjacent tenants.”
With nearly 35,000 combined entries and exits on an average weekday, the Pentagon City Metro station is the second-busiest Metro station in Arlington — second only to Rosslyn.
A new Arlington County profile has been released for 2013, and it shows a significant uptick in projected population growth, thanks in part to development along Columbia Pike.
Arlington’s population, currently estimated at 212,900, is projected to surpass 250,000 by 2030. The population will hit 258,800 in 2030, according to the latest projection from Arlington’s planning division. That’s up 5 percent from last year’s projection of 246,500.
The increase, according to county demographer Elizabeth Rodgers, is largely due to the fact that the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan, approved in July 2012, was incorporated into the projection. The plan calls for the Pike to be transformed into a more populated, urban and walkable community, with 10,000 new housing units added by 2040.
With the Columbia Pike plan incorporated into the projection, the county’s population is expected to hit 276,100 by 2040.
Employment in Arlington, meanwhile, is projected to increase to 308,000 jobs in 2040, up from the current level of 228,700 jobs.
According to the profile, 40,671 Arlington residents live and work in Arlington. Another 47,226 residents work in the District of Columbia. But that’s less than the number of Fairfax County residents who work in Arlington, which stands at 48,242.
Other vital statistics can be found in the 2013 Arlington County Profile.
Graph via Arlington County
Suzanne Smith Sundberg, a member of the Arlington County Civic Federation Revenues and Expenditures Committee, has written an eight page report detailing what she characterizes as a lack of audit oversight over the county’s finances.
The county eliminated two internal auditing positions during budget cuts in 2010, Sundberg writes, a move that raised red flags with her committee at the time. Recent news items have supported their concern and point to need to create a permanent internal auditing office, she says.
“Recent events in Arlington County — mounting discontent over the ongoing taxpayer support devoted to keeping the Artisphere afloat, taxpayers’ demonstrated opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar at the recent town hall, and the public outcry over the eye‐popping $1 million price tag for a single bus Super Stop — provide clear evidence that citizens are losing confidence in their local government and its ability to utilize resources in an efficient, effective, and practical manner,” Sundberg writes.
The county employs an external auditing firm, CliftonLarsonAllen. Sundberg, however, pointed to the case of an Arlington County employee convicted of embezzling $12,000 from the county fair as evidence that external auditing is not comprehensive enough to catch many financial irregularities.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan has included $250,000 in one-time funds for “an internal audit function in the Department of Management and Finance” in her proposed FY 2014 budget – still subject to County Board approval – but Sundberg says that doesn’t go far enough.
“Although it’s a welcome step in the right direction, the County Manager’s proposal in her FY 2014 budget is vague and appears insufficient to support the establishment of a robust, permanent internal audit function in Arlington County,” she writes. “No effective internal audit function can ever be established if it is treated as an afterthought, subject to elimination or significant reduction when money is tight. In fact, the most advantageous time to have a strong, independent audit function is during economic downturns when difficult choices must be made and every dollar counts.”
Sundberg suggests that Arlington look to Fairfax County or Montgomery County for examples of effective internal auditing mechanisms.
Fairfax County has two separate internal auditing offices. Montgomery County created an Office of the Inspector General in 1997. Sundberg cites data suggesting that both counties save millions of dollars annually thanks to their internal controls. Arlington, she says, should do the same.
“If Arlington County cannot or will not provide sufficient resources, authority, and independence to sustain a robust and permanent internal audit function, then the establishment of an office of inspector general or special independent auditor — or whatever statutory option may be available — is all the more necessary,” she writes.
Sundberg’s report represents her own analysis and opinion. It has not been endorsed by the Civic Federation.
The new vending machines are part of the county’s FitArlington initiative. At first, about half of the contents of the vending machines will contain healthier snack options that are lower in calories, fat and sugar.
One such snack machine includes options like baked potato chips, Clif bars, Nutrigrain bars, Sun Chips, 100 calorie sweet packs and other options. Drink machines will offer low-fat milk, low-calorie teas and bottled water — although the county is discouraging people from buying the latter.
“Our FitArlington Healthy Vending machines will have water but remember that it’s better for the environment to bring your own bottle and fill it up at a nearby drinking fountain,” the county said in a press release (after the jump).
The vending machines will first be deployed to county office buildings then are expected to be installed in community centers and parks starting in August. (Long Bridge Park, which was in need of vending machines, got an early installation.)
The machines are provided by a vendor at no cost to the county, according to spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
‘Mussel Bar’ to Open in Ballston — Mussel Bar & Grille, from restauranteur Robert Wiedmaier, is set to open at 800 N. Glebe Road in Ballston this summer. The small gastropub chain has existing locations in Bethesda and Atlantic City. Wiedmaier is also known for BRABO in Old Town Alexandria and Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck in D.C. [Washington City Paper]
Deputy County Manager to Retire — Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier is planning to retire, and the county is now searching for her successor. Allgeier has worked for Arlington County since 1998. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Mom Survives Flesh-Eating Bacteria — An Arlington mom has survived a case of necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria. Erin Smythers, a mother of three, developed the infection after getting a small cut on her finger. [WJLA]
Wakefield in State Semis Tonight — The Wakefield Warriors boys basketball team will face John Marshall in the state semifinals tonight. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Update at 2:00 p.m.: The video will be streamed live online, via the Wakefield High School website. [Northern Va. Sports]
Flickr pool photo by Sunday Money
Commercial property values decreased by 0.1 percent in Calendar Year (CY) 2012, coming in at $30.4 billion. Although multi-family rental properties fall into that category and increased by almost 1 percent, the rest of the commercial property types (office, retail, hotel) declined by 0.5 percent. Commercial properties still account for 49 percent of the county’s tax base.
A county press release suggests the drop in commercial property values is due to impacts from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in Crystal City and concerns about federal budget issues. The budget concerns are expected to have an impact for the next few years. While state and federal grant funding remains uncertain, real estate tax revenues represent approximately 56 percent of the county’s total revenues.
“These assessments reflect the impact that BRAC, and the slow economic recovery, continues to have on Arlington,” said Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a statement. “While our balance of commercial and residential development continues to keep Arlington’s economic outlook fundamentally sound, we are not immune from the larger economic forces that continue to buffet the nation. As we projected late last year, there will be about a $50 million gap between the County’s revenues and expenses, and both County government and Schools will need to make some tough choices to close that gap.”
Overall, Arlington’s 2013 real estate assessments remained unchanged. The average assessment for existing single-family properties, including condominiums, townhouses and detached homes, increased by about 1 percent, to $524,700.
Real estate assessments will be mailed to all Arlington property owners starting today, and will be available online after 5:00 p.m. Of all residential property owners, 47 percent will see no change in their assessment, 22 percent will see declines of varying amounts and 31 will see increases of varying amounts.
Arlington Earns ‘B+’ For Budget Transparency — Arlington has earned a grade of “B+” from the Virginia Coalition for Open Government for the ease of finding budget information on the county’s website. While better than average, the score is below Fairfax County’s “A+” grade. [Sun Gazette]
New Optometrist Open in Clarendon — A new optometrist clinic has opened in Clarendon. New Era Eyecare opened at 3105 10th Street N. last week. It’s the company’s second location; its original clinic is located in Clifton. New Era isn’t the only optometrist to recently open in Clarendon’s main business district. Visual Health Doctors of Optometry opened at 3102 Wilson Blvd in 2011.
APS Offers Car Maintenance Course for Women — Arlington Public Schools is offering a car maintenance course specifically for women as part of its adult education program. The course “is designed specifically for women who have limited to no knowledge of car maintenance.” It’s the only gender-specific class currently offered as part of the program. As of this morning, there was only one remaining student opening for the class, which begins on March 11. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Editor’s Note: This is the first of several weekly opinion columns that ARLnow.com will be publishing in 2013. The columns, from local thought leaders across the political spectrum, are intended to introduce fresh ideas and spark community conversations about issues of local and state interest.
Happy New Year, and welcome to Peter’s Take. My name is Peter Rousselot. Thanks to Scott Brodbeck and his team at ARLnow, I will be writing a weekly column with my take on Arlington and Virginia politics, government or civic affairs.
A bit of background: my family and I moved from Reston to Arlington in 1997. Our youngest daughter graduated from W-L High School. I have served as a Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction to the Arlington Public Schools; as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission to the Arlington County Board, and as Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. I am currently a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
As 2013 unfolds, you’ll find that my take on the subjects I’ll be writing about will depart sometimes from the “party line.” I often find that the emperor or empress has no clothes, while others claim to see a majestically-robed monarch.
And that brings me to some New Year’s resolutions for Arlington and its elected leaders:
- Celebrate and utilize the wealth of diverse talent we have in our community
- Cherish new ideas and new thinking
- Practice strong and vigorous public dissent expressed with civility
- Always be open to re-examine and to change based on new circumstances
In the coming weeks and months, I will try hard to follow these New Year’s resolutions myself, and be guided by them when I write about local or state affairs.
Tomorrow (Dec. 21) is the first day of winter, and Arlington County says it’s prepared to deal with wintry weather when it finally arrives in the area.
Although nothing more than a few possible snowflakes is in the forecast at this time, the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services says it will have its 46 snow plows and 92 drivers ready when the white stuff does begin to accumulate. And the county website has some new features to keep residents abreast of road conditions and snow plow progress.
From a county press release:
Arlington County is gearing up for winter weather by refining and reintroducing a number of tools to keep residents informed when winter weather strikes, including more traffic cameras, the Snow Removal Phase System, and the Snow and Ice Central web page .
Once the forecast calls for winter weather — snow, ice or freezing rain — Arlington preps its plows and salt trucks and the snow team is ready to go. During a storm, Arlington’s snow crews focus on keeping main arteries passable for emergency vehicles and public transportation (red primary routes). The team includes 92 drivers and 46 trucks equipped with salt spreaders and plows. Four of the trucks also are equipped with salt brine sprayers.
This year Arlington will be using a more environmentally-friendly salt brine solution to pre-treat our roadways. The less corrosive liquid magnesium chloride and salt mixture is used in lower temperatures when it is most effective. And when we do need to use salt or sand, crews adjust equipment to ensure only the proper amount is dispensed.
Snow Phases Provide County Removal Status
For a second season, Arlington will implement a phase system in order to share information about snow operations and removal. With the system, residents can check a storm’s progress, track the County’s efforts to clear streets, and determine how to best prepare for the winter weather. The current phase will be posted on the County web site and social media channels. For snow removal updates, follow the Department of Environmental Services on Facebook or Twitter.
More Traffic Cameras to Monitor Road Conditions
This year, the County has nearly doubled the number of traffic cameras monitoring road conditions. Introduced in 2011, the traffic camera web page offers real-time views, major intersections and other key locations. With access to real-time road conditions, drivers are able to make informed decisions about traveling during and after a winter weather storm. The Snow and Ice Central page features 40 more cameras this year, for a total of 83 traffic cameras.
Snow Removal Ordinance
The County’s Snow Removal Ordinance requires all Arlington property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within a designated time period. To learn more about the ordinance, read the FAQs.
Arlington County has released a video that recounts the year that was 2012.
Among the topics covered in the four-and-a-half minute video: the PLACE initiative, the opening of the Mary Marshall Assisting Living facility, the Buckingham Gardens renovation, awards for the VPoint affordable apartment project, the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan, the opening of Penrose Square park, the new Yorktown Aquatic Center, Fourth of July at Long Bridge Park, the Frida Kahlo exhibit at Artisphere, President Obama’s visit to Washington-Lee High School, progress on the county’s streetcar projects, adoption of a new sign ordinance, the purchase of 2020 14th Street N., and the approval of various new office and residential developments.
The Washington Post reported yesterday (Monday) that D.C.’s planned 54-station expansion this fall is being pushed back due to delays in getting equipment for the new stations.
“The delay raises new questions about whether Alta Bicycle Share,” the company that designs, deploys and manages the Capital Bikeshare system, “can keep pace with the growing demand from U.S. cities trying to invest in bike-share programs,” the Post reported.
Paul DeMaio, a Capital Bikeshare program manager, says Arlington’s expansion plans shouldn’t be impacted.
“Arlington’s expansion plan is for spring 2013, so the equipment delay will not be affecting us,” he told ARLnow.com.
DeMaio said the new stations will be focused in south Arlington, along the Route 50 and Columbia Pike corridors, and in the Shirlington and Fairlington areas. The station locations were chosen following a public process, he said.
“We’ve been busy this summer and fall in meeting with 13 civic associations to discuss proposed Capital Bikeshare stations within their respective neighborhoods,” said DeMaio. “During the winter we’ll be creating station plans for each location and working with the property owners, where necessary, for their approval of the sites.”
A list of the 30 or so planned 2013 Capital Bikeshare expansion locations is available via Google Maps.
Jane Rudolph, 36, comes from New York City, where she spent 10 years in the city’s parks and recreation department. Most recently, she worked for the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.
The former head of the county’s parks department, Dinesh Tiwari, left the department in June to work for the City of Alexandria.
Arlington County issued the following press release about Ms. Rudolph’s hiring.
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan announced today that she has hired Jane Rudolph as the Director of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR); Ms. Rudolph will begin her service with the County on Jan. 7, 2013.
Ms. Rudolph has an extensive parks background and will provide leadership and guidance to DPR and all of its projects. She spent almost 10 years in the New York City Dept. of Parks and Recreation. While there, she served as Chief of Staff and oversaw all aspects of the largest urban parks system in the nation. She also liaised with a variety of organizations for major license and management agreements, along with representing her agency on non-profit boards.
“Jane brings a deep knowledge of running an urban parks system, and will be a great asset to Arlington County,” commented Ms. Donnellan. “She is creative and enthusiastic, and I am so pleased that she will be joining the Executive Leadership Team for Arlington County.”
She succeeds Shannon Flanagan-Watson, who was named Acting DPR Director when former director Dinesh Tiwari retired from the County in June 2012. “Shannon did a terrific job; she stepped into the director position and hit the ground running, managing day-to-day operations as well as advancing long-term goals,” said Ms. Donnellan. “I can’t thank Shannon enough for her seamless leadership at DPR.”
Ms. Rudolph also has extensive knowledge of public affairs, negotiations with various agencies and state and city politics from her time with the Environmental Defense Fund and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Federal Affairs.
She earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from Vassar College and a Master’s of Administration with a focus on Public Finance from New York University, Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
Ms. Rudolph enjoys hiking, tennis and sports; she and her family reside in Arlington and are avid users of the Arlington County parks system.
Earlier this month, the Board held a work session with officials from other North American transit agencies who spoke of their experience with public-private partnerships for light rail systems. By and large, said Board member and leading streetcar supporter Chris Zimmerman, those experiences were positive.
A public-private partnership “can save time and money,” he told ARLnow.com. ”We’re very seriously looking at the options.”
At the Nov. 15 work session, transit officials from Ottawa Denver, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City discussed both the positives and the risks, challenges and things didn’t work with their private partnerships. Such a partnership involves a contract between the local government and a private entity, with the company agreeing to design, build, operate and sometimes even finance the project — to the government’s specifications — in exchange for set payments.
The benefit for the public is that the company handles all the logistics — engineering, procurement, construction, etc. — and often can get more done with less money. The private company also has more flexibility to innovate and to accomplish goals.
In exchange for a long-term (30+ year) contract for operating the light rail system, the company agrees to certain performance benchmarks. The company and the government share some of the inherent risks in the project, instead of the government assuming all risk, like in a publicly-built system. In the end, the public retains ownership of the system.
“It’s pretty clear if you look around the world and increasingly around the county that things are moving that way,” Zimmerman said. He cited the experience of Vancouver, which was able to build a two-track light rail system through a public-private partnership for the same cost as it had budgeted to build a one-track system on its own.
Zimmerman said a public-private partnership is especially attractive for the county’s planned Crystal City streetcar, which will be funded using a TIF — tax increment financing, derived from gains in commercial real estate values in Crystal City.
“[Crystal City] might be very well poised for this kind of approach,” he said.
It’s possible that the Columbia Pike streetcar could be built using a public-private partnership, but it’s less likely since the county is seeking federal funds for the project and since it is further along in the process.
Zimmerman said the county hopes to have the Columbia Pike streetcar up and running sometime between 2017 and 2018, and the Crystal City streetcar operating between 2018 and 2019. The construction process for each will take about two years.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the County Board deferred consideration of a measure that would allow the county to pursue public-private partnerships under a 1995 Virginia law. The Board will take the matter back up at its December meeting, after Board members Libby Garvey and Walter Tejada expressed some reservations about the method by which the county will award such contracts.
Arlington Gets Largest Share of Transit Growth — Over the past 11 years, the rate of growth of those who use public transit in Arlington has been higher than any other D.C. area jurisdiction. Chris Hamilton, chief of Arlington Commuter Services, attributes that growth to the county’s transit outreach efforts. [Mobility Lab]
Homebuyer Assistance Available — The Arlington County Board recently approved $500,000 to help qualified first time homebuyers purchase a new home in the county. The funds are available for down payment and closing cost assistance for about 10-15 low- to moderate-income households. Applications will be accepted started Dec. 3. [Arlington County]
Talk: ‘Books that Shaped America’ — Tomorrow, Nov. 28, Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) will host a talk about “88 remarkable books” that “shaped America.” Mark Dimunation, head of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, will talk about how he and a group of historians, scientists and literary experts helped to select the books — from Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” to Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat.” [Arlington Public Library]
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the $27 million purchase of the building in Courthouse at its meeting on Saturday (November 17). As of today’s closing, the county officially owns the property.
County staff will hold a series of public meetings regarding the acquisition to solicit input on certain physical and operational aspects about the property, including issues regarding the homeless shelter. The first will be held at Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd) on December 5, from 7:00-9:30 p.m. The other meetings, also from 7:00-9:30 p.m. at Key Elementary School, are scheduled to take place on December 17 and January 14. The county’s final plans will be presented at the January meeting.
The county will also be accepting input on parts of the project via its virtual town hall meeting website.